Momentum in Congress Pushes Funding and Infrastructure Bills Forward
This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
This week, Members of the House of Representatives completed debate on a seven-bill appropriations package, which includes the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. As you will recall, the bill includes a 41% increase for the Department of Education, bringing the total to $102.8 billion.
Nearly 200 amendments were filed to the FY2022 Labor-HHS Education bill with 15 education amendments taken up for debate. Three of the amendments added relatively small amounts of funding to programs, but these increases were offset by equal or larger cuts to Departmental Management. The result of the combined amendments cuts the total Department of Education funding by less $89,000. The funding changes include
- increase of $2 million for School-Based Mental Health Services Grants
- increase of $1 million for Statewide Family Engagement Centers
- increase of $1.4 million for the Office of Civil Rights
- cut of $4.5 million for Departmental Management
The Senate plans to begin marking up their first three FY 2022 spending bills next week. This kicks off the appropriations process in the upper chamber just in time before the August recess. The bills to be considered include Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water, and Military- Construction-VA. The education spending bill will not be considered until September, or possibly even October.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to move forward on the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package, with 17 Republicans joining all 50 Senate Democrats voting in support of the measure. In a statement, the White House noted, “Today, the president and the bipartisan group announced agreement on the details of a once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure, which will be taken up in the Senate for consideration. In total, the deal includes $550 billion in new federal investment in America’s infrastructure. The bipartisan infrastructure deal will grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good- jobs, and make our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just.”
The package is primarily focused on what some are calling “traditional” infrastructure. The next infrastructure bill, packaged as a reconciliation proposal, will focus on “human” infrastructure, including education. However, there are a few education-related items included in this bipartisan package:
- $2.5 billion investment for zero emission school busses
- $2.5 billion for low emission school busses
- $55 billion to repair lead water lines in homes, schools, and childcare centers
- $65 billion to ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) remains optimistic that the package will pass before the August recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has emphasized that she will ultimately not take up a bipartisan infrastructure package without it being accompanied by a budget resolution. In order for this to happen all Senate Democrats must be on board. Late this week, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) said she does not support the $3.5 trillion price tag of the potential reconciliation bill. This left many Democrats in the lower chamber frustrated with the potential hang up. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted:
“Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin—especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a “bipartisan accomplishment.”
Sinema said that while she supports beginning the reconciliation process, she does not “support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” per The Arizona Republic. Her reservations combined with those of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) are cause for concern among Democrats who are hoping to get a budget resolution passed as soon as next week. Passage of the resolution paves the way for the reconciliation bill to be developed.
Stay tuned as more details continue to unfold. The House adjourned today for the August recess, while the Senate will continue to work through next week. There is no question that Congressional work will continue during the Congressional recess—both behind the scenes and through Committee activities.